MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Forty years ago, before the internet and electronic communications, Carol Schwan and John Mogren were eager to sign up as members of a new Minot-area organization devoted to promoting local genealogical research.

They're the only remaining members from the 54 who chartered the Mouse River Loop Genealogical Society on April 1, 1978. The society, which is affiliated with the North Dakota State Genealogical Society, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a potluck luncheon.

Mogren, formerly of Kenmare and now of Stanley, recalled he was serving with the Navy in Japan in 1978 but was so excited about the formation of the group that he sent in his membership from overseas.

Schwan of Minot said in those early years, members would pack the meeting room in the public library.

"It was so full, you couldn't sit if you didn't come a half hour early," she told the Minot Daily News .

Society meetings, held once a month with the exception of July, now draw about 15 members on average, but genealogical research has changed a great deal from those early years, Schwan said. A wealth of information is available from the comfort of home over the internet, although Schwan has learned to be cautious.

"Things on the internet, you can't always trust. You really have to do your homework," she said.

That's where the Mouse River Loop Genealogy Society can help.

The group has done considerable research, including documenting grave sites at cemeteries in the society's counties of Bottineau, Burke, McHenry, Mountrail, Renville and Ward. The society purchased books, microfilm and CD-ROMs for use at the library to assist in genealogical research. Projects have included the copying of funeral home records and county courthouse records.

Mogren remembers the days of going through newspapers and microfilm to document information.

"There are many of us who still like to go and see original documents, like at the Courthouse and especially churches. Churches have wonderful records," he said. The records at Elmdale Lutheran in Niobe were a treasure, listing not only the early members but the parishes they came from in Sweden.

Much of the function of the genealogical society today is social, Mogren said. Working alongside people with the same interests, sharing your insights and gleaning tips from others, is what keeps the organization relevant in the internet age.

The society hosts guest speakers or works on projects the first Saturday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. in Minot Public Library. Meetings are open to anyone interested.

Society President Kathy Holte, formerly with the Ward County Veterans Service Office, had been invited about four years ago to present to the group on researching military records.

"I joined that day because I was so impressed," she said.

Holte leans on the experiences and accumulated expertise of society members to aid in her own genealogical research efforts.

"We are all friends here," she said. "You have a question — you hit a roadblock. Everybody here has already been there."

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Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com